Fri - 29 Jul 2022 - 01:48 AM

written by : Khairallah Khairallah Writer Archive -

The Houthi missiles that recently targeted civilians in Taiz in central Yemen only confirmed that the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group knows exactly what it wants. The Houthis will not accept any political solution in Yemen that does not serve the Iranian expansionist project.

This reality will mean the transformation of a part of Yemen into something like the Gaza Strip. The Islamic Republic succeeded in Gaza when the Muslim Brotherhood, in the form of the Hamas movement, pulled off its mid-June 2007 coup. There is currently nothing to prevent Iran achieving a similar outcome in northern Yemen, including the capital, Sana’a and the port of Hodeidah.

The Houthis have made clear what they want, or rather what they do not want. They want their political entity in its capital, Sana’a, which they seized on September 21, 2014 with the complicity of Yemen’s “legitimate” government, represented at the time by former President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi. What they do not want is a political solution that does not recognise their control of a Yemeni swathe of territory that includes not only Sana’a, but also the port of Hodeidah, as well as an enclave in Taiz. They want to rule what was historically the Yemen Arab Republic.

Over time the Houthi political entity has become an Iranian base in the Arabian Peninsula, a base housing missiles and drones. The Houthis have not accepted the extension of the truce and they will not accept it unless it serves their project, which is the Iranian project in Yemen. And it is the only project that is making headway in the country.

The only setback it has suffered, since its launch many years ago, was last January. At that time, the forces of the essentially-southern Giants Brigade, were able to halt the Houthis’ advance in the southern governorate of Shabwa and lift the siege they had imposed on the city of Ma'rib.
What the Houthis did in Taiz, where they have a military and even a political presence is part of Iran’s reactions to President Joe Biden's Mideast tour which included Israel, Saudi Arabia and a short Palestinian leg.

The subsequent Iranian-Turkish-Russian Tehran summit was not the only response to the US president's visit to the region and attendance of Jeddah summit. Yemen is still an important Iranian card. But Yemen also poses a challenge to the Biden administration, which will have to abandon the illusion of a political solution which fails to take into account the current balance of power.

In clearer terms, a political solution is possible and is a necessity for Yemen, whose population suffers from all kinds of woes, including poverty, hunger and disease. However, the Houthis need to be convinced that a political solution is in their interest and that they cannot stand in its way. How can that be achieved? The answer lies in change on the ground. Can the Presidential Leadership Council headed by Rashad Al-Alimi bring about this change, which in turn requires a general change in the American policy and no longer going along with the Houthis by continuing their removal from the US list of terrorist groups?

There is no doubt that the Houthis are part of the Yemeni fabric. No sane person can ignore that. But there is also no doubt that turning northern Yemen into another Gaza Strip represents a great threat to every country in the region.

But the desperate living conditions of Yemenis do not matter to Iran, which does not care how many Yemenis may die daily from poverty and disease. Its Houthi proxies’ prioritise the recruitment of teenagers and throw them into battle after indoctrinating them with fallacies. It is no longer a secret that the Houthis were able to introduce major changes in the make-up of all areas under their control, including altering the nature of Yemeni society in several areas in the north, where they were able to overhaul the existing tribal structure.

In order to prevent northern Yemen from turning into another Gaza, a different approach to the Yemeni crisis is needed. Not only there is need to activate the Presidential Leadership Council, but it is also necessary for the US administration to change its policy to meet the concerns of the countries in the region. After all, President Biden travelled to Saudi Arabia to reassure these countries and not to confirm America's withdrawal from the Gulf and the Middle East.

It remains to be seen whether Washington believes it can afford to maintain its past fence-sitting, when Hamas seized the Gaza Strip and turned it into one of Iran’s assets in the region.


* Khairallah Khairallah is a Lebanese writer and columnist who was formerly Annahar's foreign editor (1976-1988) and Al-Hayat's managing editor (1988-1998).

The article was originally published by the London-based The Arab Weekly newspaper on Thursday, 28 July 2022. The views expressed represent the author alone.